Health chief says sorry to Oliver’s family

December 22 2020

Oliver McGowan, who died in Southmead Hospital

Oliver McGowan, who died in Southmead HospitalTHE chief executive of a health body has issued an unreserved apology for mistakes made during an investigation into the death of Emersons Green teenager Oliver McGowan.
But after the apology was made during a public meeting in early December, it emerged that the 18-year-old student's parents, Paula and Tom, had not received any apology directly.
Oliver died at Southmead Hospital in November 2016 after being given anti-psychotic drugs following his admission for an epileptic seizure, despite him and his parents telling staff he had previously had an adverse reaction.
A review into his death by the South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group was found to be flawed, mismanaged and unacceptably slow, an independent panel found in October.
At a public meeting on December 1, Julia Ross, the chief executive of the CCG's successor organisation, the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG, was asked if the body would apologise to the family.
She said: “I welcome the opportunity to apologise to Paula and Tom McGowan and indeed to Oliver’s brother and sister, who were deeply impacted by Oliver’s death, but also by the process that wasn’t good enough that we went through.
“I had hoped to meet with Paula and Tom early on, when this first came to light, but I was too late. Quite understandably, by that time Paula and Tom didn’t feel they could engage with us.
“Unequivocally, I want to apologise personally to Paula and Tom, and to the family.
“We welcome this report and recognise all the recommendations (it has) made. We’re working hard to address the issues in there.
“I’m pleased to say we’re in a different place today than we were in back then but there isn’t any excuse and we are unreservedly sorry to the whole McGowan family.”
But when the Voice contacted Paula McGowan following the meeting, she revealed that the CCG had not been in touch with the family.
She said: "This is an apology for the press. We were not told about this meeting and they have certainly not contacted us to make this apology. I would view this as a non-apology."
Oliver had mild autism and learning difficulties, and as a result a learning disability mortality review (LeDeR) into his death was held by the CCG.
But it took 17 months to complete and contained a number of inconsistencies, most notably that the answer to a question asking if Oliver's death had been avoidable was changed from 'yes' to 'no' between stages of the report.
An independent review launched by NHS England found that his death was was "potentially avoidable" and the LeDeR was "mismanaged, poorly monitored and allowed to progress without due rigour or any independent oversight".

By Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporting Service